#Showbiz: Tale from the graveyard

FOR filmmaker Gavin Yap, using a cemetery as a place to hang out is nothing new.

While the idea may seem macabre, for Yap, it's nothing unusual.

When his family returned from the UK, they settled down in a house in the Klang Valley located not far from a graveyard.

"I'm not sure if it was coincidental or otherwise, but when we first settled in Damansara Utama, the house was near a cemetery.

"Then when we uprooted to Penang, again, the neighbourhood was next to a graveyard," shares the 46-year-old director who co-directed the film 'Dendam Pontianak' with Glen Goei in 2019.

"So, hanging out at a graveyard after school was the norm for me and my schoolmates."

Perhaps inspired partially by his activities during his teenage years, Yap's new work tells a story that revolves around a group of teenagers whose gathering place is none other than a burial ground.

'Geng Kubur', currently screening in cinemas, is a psychological thriller and a coming-of-age story of four teenagers.

Based on his original idea, Yap developed and co-wrote the script with Honey Ahmad.

Directed by Yap, 'Geng Kubur' is not just a thriller, but it also delves into the back story of the four main characters, namely Firhan (played by Firdaus Sufiyan), Prem (Sasidaran), Fang Liang (Lion Chong) and Melati (Mia Sara Shauki).

"Apart from their pastime of hanging out at the neighbourhood cemetery and imagining stories of those buried there, all of them are haunted by their past trauma," shares Yap.

While Yap admits that the four friends who bond together due to them being outcasts at school may remind audiences of the 1985 movie 'The Goonies', he says it is more similar to the 1986 adventure/thriller 'Stand By Me', especially when viewed from its coming-of-age angle.

Having had the opportunity to catch the preview of this film, I couldn't help but notice that Yap had also drawn some inspiration from the 'Harry Potter' series, mainly in outlining the plots for the back end stories for each of the characters when they are dealing with their own traumas/tragedies/ghosts of their past, not unlike Harry and friends dealing with the boggarts.

Stepping outside the norm

According to Yap, filming for 'Geng Kubur' was done in September 2022 within the Klang Valley at a few locations which included Hulu Langat, Bandar Utama and Kampung Baru.

"I hope the coming-of-age theme would remind the older audiences of their own time at school, hanging out with their friends, doing all sorts of things teenagers were supposed to do or not," he adds, laughing.

"Above all, I want every viewer to see himself in each of the four characters.

"This is not just a thriller, but the message that lies between the lines is more than that.

"It's about us facing the challenges that come our way, and fighting our own demons for us to move ahead."

The film's executive producer Michael Chen adds that what attracted Iron Hill Media Sdn Bhd to produce the film was its unique elements aside from the psychological thriller premise.

"The film also tells the story of friendship, family ties and how one accepts his fate and keeps moving on despite the hardships he has to battle through.

"None of the main characters have a perfect life. Every one of them has their own dark secret and challenges in their short teenage years.

"The film's message is simple. It's how each of them deals with problems in the end.

"Isn't that what life is all about?" he asks rhetorically.

Chen let on that the film cost RM1.2 million to produce.

While it may seem like a big amount, he admits that the original proposed budget was much higher.

However, they eventually managed to reduce it to the current amount, which was an acceptable compromise considering the quality he had seen the final product.

"I've been friends and working together with Yap on various projects since 2006.

"So when he proposed this project, I believed that he could come up with a good production," says Chen, who is also grateful to have an excellent team to work alongside his old buddy.

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